Sure, Karin Tanabe's first novel, "The List," shares plenty of similarities to her real life experiences as a Politico reporter, but there are some differences, too. "As you can see, my protagonist is blond," Tanabe pointed out. "Everyone is like, 'but you're not blond,' and I'm like, 'it's not me' -- even though I did work at Politico, one of the most cutthroat new media organizations in Washington."
Tanabe shared some of the passages of her new book with a packed house Saturday at Politics and Prose in upper Northwest. It was a Washington homecoming of sorts, with the seats filled with mom, dad, brother, high school and college friends and, yes, even former Politico colleagues. "It feels like my wedding," the author joked.
Tanabe's novel is about 28-year-old Adrienne Brown, a New York City-based Town & Country reporter who decides she's done with the Big Apple and wants to return home to the D.C. area (Middleburg, to be precise) to make it in the wonky world of Washington. She takes a gig at the up-and-coming rag, the Capitolist, which, "if you're cool and in the know," is referred to simply as "The List."
"So she comes down to D.C. ... She wears this Hermes orange cape, she storms the newsroom and like the second she gets one toe in there she looks around and she's like, 'Oh my God, I'm wearing the wrong thing, I look the wrong way,' " Tanabe said of her central character. "All these people are so wonky -- they're like 23. They have eight Blackberrys. They are screaming about being on deadline. They are elbowing each other out of the way to the White House and she was like, 'I don't think I can cut it here.' "
But Brown does. Discovering that the List's star White House reporter Olivia Campo is up to something tawdry, after a chance encounter with Campo in Middleburg. "She sees her sort of hanging out by her car and, as we all know, you do not hang out at 2 o'clock in the morning alone in Middleburg unless you're a serial killer or a horse freak," Tanabe said.
The book focuses heavily on the killer schedule of modern new media journalists. "When I was at Politico, I stopped brushing my hair. I gained 12 pounds. I was kind of surly," Tanabe laughed. "I'm not saying anything that isn't already known and that, I think, Politico's often very proud of," she said.